How to successfully pass an interview

Getting an interview has become a challenging and competitive field regarding most job roles. Competition is fierce and therefore you need to be fully prepared and demonstrate that you are at your best. Nobody enjoys the interview process; the majority of people find the whole experience nerve wracking. You will need to show great levels of knowledge and experience within the particular industry and demonstrate good knowledge of the job role you are applying for. 

Express yourself 

Interviews are a way for you to be able to express yourself at your best. You can get the job despite someone else being more qualified or experienced. This can be achieved if you prepare for the interview and excel your skills and abilities, as well as take pride in how you convey yourself during the interview. 

Preparing for questions 

It is standard practise to ask questions at an interview and therefore it is well worth preparing answers to these in advance. You should also try to think about other questions the interviewer my ask you based on the position itself on your application. In this blog we will provide you with some useful tips on how to pass interviews. 

The questions asked at the interview will cover areas such as yourself, the job you have applied for and possibly specific technical questions about your chosen area of work. Some of the following questions may not be relevant if you are applying for your first job after qualifying from University or leaving school. 

Staying calm  

You may be asked a question that completely throws you. If water has been provided, take it to give you some thinking time. Stay calm and try to think about why the interviewer asked the question and what they my be looking for in you. Always remember to smile, I got my first job working at a busy West end retail store just because of my smile!

Be humorous

Never underestimate the power of a sense of humour but be careful, not everyone finds the same things funny. If you make the interviewer or interviewers laugh they are more likely to remember you. It is possible that your interviewer will become your colleague if your appointed and this is something they are unlikely to forget. 

First impressions count 

Your interviews is your chance to make the employer take notice of who you are and where you fit into their organisation.

 TIPS– Here are some tips for do’s and don’ts at your interview  

  • be professional. 
  • dress the part.
  • speak clearly and with an appropriate volume
  • shake their hand firmly and smile.
  • do not talk to them like they are your friend or they may not be your future employer. 
  • show them that you are the right person to hire 

 

The following points are essential if you wish to make a good impression during your interview; 

 

Research 

Extensively research the organisation for which you are interviewing using internet search, not only their website, but find other articles or write ups about them. It is important that you know what the work predominantly is. It will give you an advantage over other candidates if you share full knowledge and interest about the place you applying to. 

Dress appropriately

Your first impression is what could make or break you. If you show up in jeans and a shirt the employer may not feel you take the position seriously. Your clothing needs to demonstrate your professional mature demeanour. For men either a suit or smart casual if appropriate shows that you serious about the job with pride in your appearance and how you convey yourself to others. For women a skirt suit or conservative dress will give the same effect. Be professional in your dress and show up well groomed. These little details may seem simple but they are important and they are effective. When I went for an interview for my first role as a trainee lawyer I was nervous but definitely looked the part, dressed in a smart suit and tie. It made me look professional and competent. Obviously the kind of role that you are going for will help determine what is appropriate dress for the interview.

Think about the questions 

Familiarise yourself with some of the questions you may be asked during the process. Some examples of questions which would be asked are; 

What makes you interested in our organisation? 

Why are you interested in in this particular type of work? 

What are you hoping for in your career?

What are your salary expectations? 

Questions about salary expectations are generally the most difficult to answer. On one hand you do not want to oversell yourself, ask for too high a salary and get passed over because your demands can’t be met. On the other hand nobody wants to undersell themselves and get paid too little. Finally a good balance is important. 

As you prepare for your interview, be it via phone, most likely at this current time, or face to face, you should ask yourself these questions; 

what are the area(s) that you are really interested working in and why? 

what can you offer the organisation for which you are interviewing? 

why do you want to enter into this particular area? 

why did you decide to apply to this particular organisation? 

Asking yourself these questions will not only lead you to choose organisations  to apply for that are more appropriate to your interests, but it will help you to feel more comfortable with answering questions that are not as straightforward and specifically about your experience.

That is it for this blog and part one on passing interviews. In the second part of this blog we will go through the STAR method for answering situational questions and tips on answering other types of questions. There will be sample answers for you to use and modify for your interview. 

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PART TWO

 

Welcome back! This is the second part of the blog on interviews as part of our series on getting employment. We will start with a recap of the first part of the blog. We explored how to show up for your interview, including dress code and body language, and some questions to think about for yourself to answer in the interview. You can use something called the STAR method to answer situational questions.

The STAR method 

The STAR method is one way you can prepare for an interview. This works most effectively when preparing responses to situational type interview questions 

When we get learners come to our organisation for interview preparation we often spend a lot of time using the STAR method to get ready for the interview questions. 

The STAR method basically ensures that your response to the interview questions follow a concise and logical sequence and also makes sure that you cover every possible area; 

Situation – At the commencement of my response explain what the situation was and who else was involved. This would be a relatively comprehensive explanation so that the interviewer fully understands what it is I am trying to explain. 

Task– I will explain what the task was this was this would basically be an explanation of what had to be done and by whom. 

Action -I will then move on and explain what action I specifically took, and also what action other people took.

Result– I will finally explain what the result was following my actions. It is important to make sure the result was positive as a direct result of your actions.

Use this method of response in any form of interview, whether that be a telephone interview, face to face interview or a group interview. Due to the current climate you are more likely to have a telephone or online interview and should prepare accordingly. You need to demonstrate well structured and logical responses. Using this method not only shows your thought process for each response, but it allows you to take the time and think carefully about each step in the process of your response. 

 

Star in action

Here is an example of a situational question and a possible answer- ‘tell me about a time when you were faced with a challenging situation at work and what you did in response’? 

 

‘Well I remember an occasion when I was working in a customer service role and I had a customer who was unhappy with the service they had just received. They were complaining about the staff member they had requested help from to better understand a product. By the time they came to me they were very angry and frustrated. So I calmed them down by apologising and offering to get someone else to help them straight away. I also made sure that they did not leave the store still feeling angry. I informed them I would look into how and why the initial staff member they met was un-helpful, that our company took pride in providing excellent customer service. In the end they left feeling satisfied and happy with the service they had received because of the conversation that we had.’ 

 

TIPS- when answering interview questions 

Below are some tips you should consider when answering interview questions; 

  • Always try to be yourself as adopting a different persona is likely to come across as insincere at the interview. The interviewer wants to see the real you. 
  • Honesty is always the best policy. If you do not know the answer to questions say so rather than making something up. Also lying about previous achievements or experience is always likely to come back to haunt you if you get the job. 
  • Try to lead the interview towards areas of your experience that you want to talk about. Capture their interest and ensure you pause during your answers to give them a chance to expand on their questions. 
  • Avoid yes or no answers at all costs and try to support your answers with specific examples from experience. Try to avoid talking too much otherwise you may be in danger of talking yourself out of a job. 
  • Focus on your strengths and successes wherever possible, but remember the interviewer will want to know that you can recognise your weaknesses and devise strategies to resolve them through ongoing learning and development of your skills. If you have not had much work experience you could always use examples from things you do outside of work such as hobbies or voluntary work. 

Many job adverts include details of a salary range for the vacancy question. However quite often the question of salary and other employment issues will be discussed towards the end of the interview. One way to raise the subject is to ask how you experience and skills will be recognised in the new role.   

Quite often you will be asked at the end of the interview if you have any questions. If possible hold back one or two that could have been asked during the interview for this purpose. If you have not been told during the interview it is always a good idea to ask when you will be told the outcome of the interview. 

If you do not get the position you should ask for feedback on how your interview went. This is a great way to refine and improve your interview technique. Whenever possible end the interview on a positive note even if it is only to thank the interviewer for seeing you. 

 

Questioning techniques 

How you present yourself during that all important interview is crucial. You want to convey yourself in a professional and mature manner in order for the organisations to take you seriously. Remember, you have worked hard to get to this point. You do not want to mess up your interview stage because you lack the correct technique in your interview. Remember it is what you do not say that counts so never underestimate the importance of body language. Ensure that you have a feeling of confidence and the correct body posture as well as a warm smile and the appropriate dress for the interview. 

Below I have given some sample interview questions that you may be asked at the interview. I have also provided some sample answers to help clarify the type of response employers will be looking for. Your responses to the questions are fundamental in your success, and therefore you need to spend a considerable amount of time working on your answers. We usually spend at least two to three days of the training time working on interview questions and answers with our learners. This ensures more confidence and less anxiety as the learner has been through the process many times before the actual interview. We also hold mock interviews which are formal and require the individual to be dressed up formally as though it is the real interview that they are attending. 

Sample interview question

Q. What has made you decide to apply for this position?

They want to see genuine enthusiasm in your answer. It is here that you should show what you can contribute and not what you can take. 

       A. This job is a perfect match for my skills and hopes for my career. I know I can be successful with the organisation and at the same time my successes will be rewarded

Q. You do not have any experience in customer service is that correct?

You were shortlisted, so this obviously is not a problem. Instead of saying no I do not you could say; 

       A. I do not yet have experience in customer service but I would love to broaden my experience in this area. I am a fast learner and adapt to new situations, I think customer service                     would be an exciting experience for me that I could excel in.

Q. What are your strengths? 

You have done research on the job position that you have applied for. Then you know what exactly the employer is looking for. Tailor your answers to fit and focus on what most interviewers seek. Problem solving skills, teamwork, flexibility motivation are all good examples to speak of. 

Focus on select matters, rather than a list of strengths. By knowing what you have to offer them, you will be able to talk about it in a way that will keep the interviewer engaged. 

       A. ‘While I do work well on my own, I do have the ability to work in a group, both as a participant and as a leader. The motivation to help people who are unable to help themselves has                helped me to become better at what I do, and I know that I am very flexible.’ 

Q. What is your biggest weakness? 

The interviewer is asking this question to see if you are arrogant, whether you know yourself and how you are working to overcome a weakness.

       A. My colleagues have told me that I tend to be too focused on my work and that I need to remind myself to lighten up 

Do not be tempted to use this question to be funny or to offer a real weakness. Besides the three reasons already listed for why this question is asked, the interviewer will ask this question because it helps them to see how you handle difficult situations. 

Q. What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it? 

You should have an example ready of a situation that bought you outside of your comfort zone and how you adapted. Make sure your example is relevant to the job. 

        A. ‘While undertaking my studies we did a debate in class and I briefly froze when it came time to speak in front of a crowded room. By taking a few deep breaths and thinking about my               next statement, I was able to overcome the fear and continue on to win the debate’

Q. Where do you see yourself in ten years time? 

This is where you show the interviewer where the job fits into your goals and aspirations. Here you would explain how the job is an opportunity for you to grow and develop as a person. Never bring up goals that are truly unrealistic. 

        A. In ten years time I see myself as an extremely successful human resources manager working for a large organisation. I believe working here will allow me to utilise my skills and                    expand my knowledge to ensure that I become the best human resources person I can possibly be.

Q. What is your time management like? 

Time management is undoubtedly a skill not everyone possesses, but is crucial when it comes to applying for jobs. Being able to manage your time effectively is imperative to demonstrate your time management qualities and professionalism. 

        A. I am very effective at time management. I am the type of person who is extremely organised and knows what they want to achieve during each day. I like to keep lists which act as a              reminder of what I want to achieve and in what time frame. For example, if I have a busy schedule planned for the forthcoming week, I will always write down what I want to do during              that week. This allows me to plan ahead and make sure that I have everything in place so that I can achieve each objective. 

Q. What do you know about us? 

This is another chance for you to impress the interviewer. Show them that you took the initiative to look into the company for which you are interviewing. In this case what you know is not as important as the fact that you know something. Referring to their new report and how they are expanding will show the interviewer that you have researched the firm and like what you have learned. 

        A. During my research I found that your rate of expansion was extremely high. What this tells me is that the organisation is successful, highly professional and has a great reputation.                  This is definitely somewhere where I could see myself fitting in.

Q. What have you been doing? 

This type of question is not asking what you got up to in your spare time. Instead it is asking you what you have been doing in order to prepare for this job position. 

         A. I have been extremely focused and motivated to improve myself in order to make a successful career as an accountant. I have obtained lots of relevant work experience by                             shadowing some accountants in order to see what their day to day work life entails. I loved every minute of it, and although I didn’t fully comprehend the complexity and exhausting                 nature of the job, I am still a hundred percent committed to becoming an accountant and believe I have what it takes to excel at this role. 

 

Asking questions yourself 

Generally at the end of the interview the employer will invite you to ask questions. Asking questions to find out more about the job makes you look good and is a win win for all involved. It will show the interviewer that you are very interested and that you like to take initiative. Below I have outlined some of the questions you could ask at the end of the interview. 

 

  • Could you please share with me some of the details about the organisation? 


  • How would you describe the individuals who are successful in this position? What characteristics or qualities do they have? 


  • How will my performance be evaluated? How often? By whom will I be evaluated? 


  • Where will my opportunities lie the next five years knowing my commitment to work hard and demonstrating my accountancy skills and abilities? 


  • What are the biggest challenges I would face in this position? What is the next step in this process? 

 

Other assessments 

You may be asked to sit an assessment during the interview, this could be a written one which is designed to test your ability to write and answer questions. You may also be asked to take part in role plays, group tasks and stand-alone written exercises. If there is a discussion you will normally be given a topic to choose from. It will require thinking on the spot and answering questions from the interviewing panel. Remember everyone is in the same position so just do your best and keep your fingers crossed that you get the job. 

We hope that you found this blog useful and practical in terms of the tips offered. In our next blog we will be exploring how apprenticeships are the new future of employment. We will also discuss how you can get yourself into an apprenticeship or training programme. 

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